Air Canada Ordering Rapid COVID-19 Testing Kits

Air Canada is in the process of placing an order for 25,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits. The tests can provide results within minutes. The airline had previously partnered with McMaster Health Labs (MHL) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to study the effectiveness of the kits when diagnosing COVID-19 in passengers. The robust results of the study mean the airline is looking to order more kits.

Air Canada will use rapid testing kits to identify staff and passengers with COVID-19. Photo: Air Canada

Testing vs quarantine

Air Canada is hoping that by implementing effective testing at airports, the Canadian Government will reduce strict travel restrictions. The airline partnered with MHL and GTAA to examine whether effective rapid testing at airports could track and identify COVID-19 cases and help prevent the spread of the virus.

In a statement, Air Canada’s chief medical officer Dr Jim Chung said,

“We believe testing will be key to protecting employees and customers until such time as a COVID-19 vaccine is available. Rapid testing is also a means to enable governments to relax current blanket travel restrictions and quarantines in a measured way while still safeguarding the health and safety of the public.”

The airline said that the initial testing was so successful that the testing kits could be used as an alternative to the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Air Canada may be taking the lead from Hawaii, which introduced a drive-through testing scheme, which means passengers with a negative result will not need to quarantine.

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Air Canada repatriation flights
The airline hopes that the tests could replace the quarantine period and encourage international travel. Photo: Air Canada

The testing kit

The ID NOW testing kit Air Canada used in its testing period confirms results within 13 minutes. During the testing, over 13,000 volunteers took the test, and less than 1% received a positive result. Each volunteer took a test on day one, day seven, and day 14. Of the positive results, over 80% were caught on day one with the rest testing positive on day seven.

This suggests that perhaps this testing system may still require passengers to quarantine for one week and take a second test to be sure they are not positive. However, the airline has stated that the kits it has on order will be used initially for voluntary employee testing.

Due to the nature of their work, airline and airport staff come into contact with thousands of people every day. As a result, regularly testing these workers can help prevent the spread.

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Lufthansa, COVID-19, Testing
Testing could become mandatory at airports. Just as passengers pass through security, they could also take a COVID-19 test. Photo: Lufthansa

Mandatory testing

During the study, all participants were voluntary, and Air Canada’s next phases for employees will also be voluntary. Assuming the testing rolls out to the public within the next few months, we may see it become mandatory. In fact, testing could become a regular part of traveling for the short-term future.

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Similar to going through security, testing could become routine. However, each country is taking its own approach to testing. The result means passengers should stay informed on the regulations of the country to which they are traveling.

Mandatory airport testing could streamline the process and prevent passengers from making mistakes. If Air Canada successfully provides tests with results within 13 minutes, other countries will undoubtedly try for the system.

What do you think of Air Canada’s study results? Do you believe at-airport testing will be mandatory? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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